By Heather Lusk
Denise Pierce had a great 2015.
In addition to celebrating her company’s 15th anniversary, the president and CEO of DK Pierce & Associates was named the recipient of the Starkey Entrepreneurial Woman Award in the summer, the business was named a 2015 Indiana Companies to Watch in the fall, and at the end of the year, she announced she would be adding new jobs and a new building in 2016.
But 15 years ago, she started small. Her company was originally intended to be a one-woman operation.
“Within one year, I already had six clients,” she said. “It was just stunning to create such a demand that I could not handle it myself.”
She now has 20 employees and plans to add 23 more within the next few years to service approximately 39 clients, primarily biopharmaceutical companies.
“The demand has been so great,” she said. “We are going to really try to keep really smart young people here in Indiana.”
The next milestone
By the end of 2015, Pierce had announced the next milestone for the company: hers will be the first office in Creekside Corporate Park.
“We’re very excited about being the first to build in Creekside Corporate,” she said, adding that the 18,000-square-foot building should be environmentally linked, utilizing new approaches to storm water management, green roofs and incorporating the building into the environment. The proximity to trails and parks is another positive factor for the dog-friendly office.
Pierce is working with David Rausch as architect.
“What we’re excited about is we want to do something different and set the stage for other buildings coming into Creekside Corporate Park,” she said.
“The big thing about having DK Pierce there, it opens that park up. It will allow companies the opportunity to envision what the park can look like,” said Molly Whitehead, executive director of the Boone Co. Economic Development Corp. “It’s a great piece of property, but it’s very conceptual at this point.”
Whitehead said she hopes the type of clients drawn by DK Pierce will also encourage other companies to consider Creekside as an option.
“We were so excited when we received acknowledgement from the state to receive tax incentives for growth,” she said. “The intent is to try to bring more of the employee base here in Indiana.”
DK Pierce will receive employee-based incentives from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which has offered the company up to $275,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $50,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. These incentives are performance based, meaning the company will claim incentives as more Indiana-based employees are hired.
“As the health care field continues to grow and change, I’m proud that Zionsville companies like DK Pierce are leading the way,” said Jeff Papa, a Zionsville town council member and former mayor. “DK Pierce has had a long-standing presence in Zionsville, and we are proud that they chose to grow their business right here in one of Indiana’s most recognized communities.”
The goal is to be in the new building by the end of 2016, but Pierce said she realistically recognizes it may be longer.
“We love the environment. It’s created a very strong community feel for the employees we have now,” she said. “I really wanted to stay here because I wanted to continue that feeling, so we were very excited we were able to work out an agreement with the town.”
What does DK Pierce do?
The company works directly with pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies to help them strategically work through FDA approval and then monitor how patients can get access to these medications. The company primarily focuses on medications to help patients with cancer and rare diseases.
“Those tend to be patients who really do fall through the cracks,” Pierce said. “It’s important for us to use our expertise to see where we can close up those cracks.”
“We’re seeing more drugs being approved for rare cancers,” she said, such as pancreatic, ovarian and liver. Those patients, historically, haven’t had a lot of options.
“We’re seeing some rare cancers increasing and that’s the importance of getting these new treatments available for them,” Pierce said. “We like to focus on those areas of unmet need to make sure that those patients are going to get access.”
The organization has two major service lines – a monitoring arm to track what insurance companies are doing and what is required for patient access, and the other is a more strategic arm taking medications through the FDA approval process and sometimes even through patent loss.
Ideally they work with a company up to two years before FDA approval and help shape clinical trials to realistically allow a patient to get access.
MEET DENISE PIERCE
Family: Husband, Michael, of 26 years, two stepchildren, six step-grandchildren, dogs Morgan and Emmi and Otis the cat.
Favorite vacation spot: The Tetons, Wyoming
Favorite hobby: The former flutist enjoys music but especially gardening
Favorite movie: “Sabrina” (1954 version)
Favorite Zionsville store: Lesley Jane